Allen Park — Every morning, Detroit Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis puts his feet on the ground and asks himself a pair of questions.
“Do you want to do this? Do you want to be here?” Davis said after Monday’s training camp practice.
And every morning, he has the same answer: “Yes, please.”
Davis this season is back in Detroit, where he was drafted as a first-rounder in 2017, on a one-year prove-it deal. He’s no longer “the guy,” as he put it. Heck, he doesn’t even have a guaranteed roster spot at a position that many have deemed the Lions’ weakness.
Despite all of this, Davis is having the time of his life since returning from a one-year run with the New York Jets. During his first stint with the Lions, a majority of which took place under former head coach Matt Patricia, Davis said there were many days where the answer to that question would have been no.
“There’s a lot of things that got to me, as I’ve said before, and I wasn’t able to really bounce back,” Davis said.
“But being able to step away and say, ‘Hey, do I want to play football anymore?’ choosing to continue to play, getting a fresh take on it and being able to come back and know what comes with it, what doesn’t, and having my eyes open through the whole process has helped me grow and helped me really define what I want to do.”
Lions head coach Dan Campbell is happy he’s back, too. He said that Davis is a “pro’s pro” and that he does “everything you ask him to do.”
“You would think he’s a second-year player by the way he comes in and handles his business, if that makes sense,” Campbell said. “He still believes he can get better.”
Campbell might be onto something about Davis behaving like a second-year player. Davis’ best season — particularly rushing the quarterback — was his second year, in 2018, when he had a career-high six sacks and 10 hits on the quarterback.
The role that Davis has been asked to take on, he said, isn’t all that different from what it was his first go-around, but the defense certainly is. “This is a very attacking defense,” he said. “It’s fun to play in. It’s very fun to play in.”
In the end, the ability to show he can get to the quarterback in this new scheme might be the difference between Davis entering the 2022 season as a Detroit Lion and having to catch on with a new team elsewhere.
That’s why, he said, the team’s preseason slate — which begins 6 p.m. Friday at Ford Field against the Atlanta Falcons — is a matter of do or die.
“How I’m looking at it going in is, man, this could be one of very many opportunities, or one of my last opportunities,” Davis said. “It’s an opportunity and it’s a great one, so I’m excited to take full advantage of it and go out there and have fun with the guys playing next to you.”
All systems go (for a quarter)
Speaking of preseason, Campbell said Monday he’s spoken with Falcons head coach Arthur Smith and they both agreed they’d like to play their starters for part of the preseason opener.
“I’d like to get our starters some reps in this game, maybe a quarter, because there again, you just can’t mimic game speed and game intensity, and the only way to get ready for a season is to simulate that intensity,” Campbell said.
“But at the same time, I want to be smart, too. So, we’re going to meet as a staff tomorrow night and really go through this and talk about it, but that’s — my intentions are to do that right now.”
Outside of a short week, Campbell said he doesn’t anticipate much else to change about training camp ahead of the preseason opener.
“For us, it’s still about us and we’re really not even going to worry about Atlanta until the day before,” Campbell said. “And it’ll be more of a jog-through mode, here’s what Atlanta does, we rep our guys. But everything up until the day before the game is about Detroit vs. Detroit.”
You can stop holding your breath — Jeff Okudah is fine.
The third-year cornerback was held out of Saturday’s open training camp practice at Ford Field, leading many to wonder whether Okudah had suffered a setback while rehabbing from an Achilles injury sustained in last year’s season opener.
Campbell said Okudah, who returned to practice Monday, was simply given a day off.
“He looks good, the physical side of everything he’s doing is good,” Campbell said. “We have no concern about the Achilles. Physically he looks great, he just needs reps, he needs to play. I mean, that’s the thing that we can never lose sight of. I mean, he’s going into year three and he hasn’t really played. I mean, he just hasn’t had significant playing time.”
“We’re just trying to be smart with him.”
The Lions on Monday announced the retirement of offensive tackle Zein Obeid, who became the fourth player on the outskirts of Detroit’s offseason roster to retire early in the last handful of months.
Obeid joins a group that includes wide receiver Corey Sutton, defensive tackle John Penisini and cornerback Jermaine Waller.
Detroit made a corresponding move by signing offensive tackle Kendall Lamm.
Campbell acknowledged that it is strange to have so many players retire in training camp, but wasn’t reading much between the lines, as far as reasons why.
“I’ll say the three of the four, they were — from the time they got here, you would’ve never guessed it, something like this,” Campbell said. “I mean, these guys did everything right and they worked hard, man, they … felt like it wasn’t for them. All good.”
Lamm, 30, joins the Lions heading into his eighth NFL season. He was signed by the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent in 2015, has also spent time with Cleveland and Tennessee and has made 12 or more appearances in each of his seven seasons besides 2019, with a total of 28 starts.